Magazine article The Christian Century

Rein in Women's Group, Says SBC Conservatives

Magazine article The Christian Century

Rein in Women's Group, Says SBC Conservatives

Article excerpt

Southern Baptist conservatives, angered over moves by the denomination's women's auxiliary to act independently, are demanding that the women submit--be "hard-wired, one said--to conservative leadership or lose their role in the Southern Baptist Convention. In a series of statements over recent months, the conservative leaders have taken an increasingly hard line with the Women's Missionary Union, the SBC's 100-year-old auxiliary that was formed to promote Baptist mission efforts at home and abroad.

At an earlier meeting on February 8, mission board trustees had summoned officers of the missionary union to explain the union's January 10 decision to supply materials to mission programs run by unofficial groups, particularly the Atlanta-based Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The fellowship is a moderate group, and its missions program is viewed by many SBC fundamentalists as an unwanted competitor that will drain needed funds from Foreign Mission Board coffers. The WMU's decision came after a yearlong study that recommended that the auxiliary expand the scope of supported groups to reflect the diversity of its membership across the country.

Following the two-hour session, angry trustees went behind closed doors with the agency's interim president, Don Kammerdiener, to discuss what he said involved "new approaches" to promoting the Lottie Moon offering. The decision of the WMU to begin spreading its money around came after Keith Parks gave up leadership of the Foreign Mission Board to take a comparable position as head of the Cooperative Fellowship's global mission program. The move by Parks, a veteran of the Indonesian mission fields, to the fellowship was seen by some fundamentalists as tantamount to joining the enemy.

A moment of high drama came during the earlier meeting after Phyllis Randall, a mission board trustee from Blacksburg, Virginia, quoted Alma Hunt, a retired executive director of the missionary union, as saying, "The WMU is the Foreign Mission Board and the WMU is the Home Mission Board"--a statement that appeared to support the fundamentalists' point of view. But Hunt, who had driven to Richmond from her home in Roanoke, rose from a seat near the back of the auditorium and asked to speak. …

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